One of the poet’s granddaughters combines reminiscence with literary criticism in this memoir.
The daughter of Frost’s daughter Lesley (from whom the poet was somewhat estranged for years), Francis has spent much of her career studying and publishing about her grandfather’s work (Robert Frost: An Adventure in Poetry, 1900–1918, 2004). She includes a foreword by Frost biographer Jay Parini, a scholar whom she praises throughout. In her preface, Francis tries to explain her approach, calling the work “an interactive personal/academic memoir,” but Frost disappears for pages on end, and readers are left with numerous eye-glazing accounts of the local and international travels of the author and her family members. Francis also offers samples of her own poetry, which are not likely to cause readers to forget her grandfather’s work. She also includes a number of poems from the man she calls “RF” throughout—and from numerous other writers, as well, including John Masefield. Francis provides excerpts from her mother’s journal, sections that prove to be some of the most engaging in the book, and from various family letters, also engaging. Frost fans will find greatest interest in the accounts of his various literary friendships (from Amy Lowell to Octavio Paz), his time in England (beginning in 1912: they let a coin toss determine if they would go or not), and the New England farmhouses they occupied. Perhaps most powerfully of all, we get a clear portrait of the author’s mother, a peripatetic soul devoted to the improvement of humanity. Francis also includes a series of previously unpublished photos.
Some Frost aficionados will undoubtedly find some delight in a text that many other readers will find soporific.